Tuesday, April 30, 2013

More Kuwait marketing techniques

Can you find anything wrong with this ad?

Marketing advise to marketing "professionals"

I'm in the process of assisting in the selection/interviews of several marketing companies for various tasks for the company I work for.  We're looking for someone to revamp our corporate website and create a new e-business site/portal.  In addition, we're considering outsourcing all of our social media.  It is a big project with a lot of follow-on work.  Good business for whatever company we select.

In the course of interviewing marketing firms, I have become really frustrated.  We flat-out fired our former marketing company and they didn't even know what hit them.  We just paid our bills and stopped answering their calls.  And then scrapped most of what they had given us.  Not my call to provide a play-by-play after-action report to the marketeers.  If anything, they should contact us and politely ask for a debriefing.  But alas, they won't... because stupidity got them to where they are now.

I have come to the conclusion that most marketing companies in Kuwait don't have a CLUE what they are doing.  The (Kuwaiti) owner of our company is convinced that there is (in his words), ..."no talent in Kuwait."  That's sad.  I know there is, but for the love of God, I wish the talent would get their shit together on the business end of their house.  As it is, we are now interviewing international marketing companies outside of Kuwait because the calibre of "service" was so bad in Kuwait.

So, I'm going to provide a little Desert Girl free marketing advise to marketing firms in Kuwait that might help you in the long run:

Get your business in order before you start preaching to other businesses about their business
AKA:  How ya gonna market my business if you can't market your own?

Business Cards
Excuse me, but never ever ever go to a meeting without a business card in hand.  If I'm out of work/looking for work and have enough money to get business cards or food - I get business cards.  It's the impression.   Kinkos can design them and print them for under 20KD. First impressions are everything.  My first impression when a "marketing company" walks into my office for a meeting without a business card?  LOOOOSERS.  You've already lost the business.

I can create a basic website on godaddy.com in about 2 hours.  You can too.  How the Hell can you walk into a client's office, preaching about websites when you don't even have one or it is "under construction"?  What kind of impression does that give?  You can have 3 people working in your office and have an amaaaaaaazing website and no one will know/give a crap.  The trick is in (get this):  MARKETING YOURSELF.

(If you just opened up shop, don't go to a meeting until you have your house in order. You're not ready yet.)

Nothing comes up on a Google Search
Em, I do due diligence.  I do reference and background checks.  At the very least, I check out your name and your company name on google.  If you don't have your act together and either nothing comes up, or you have something unprofessional that you might not want others to see (like drunken photos on Facebook, for example), you have just lost my business.

Phucked Up LinkedIn Profiles
I don't want to look you up on LinkedIn to see your sexy party-pouty face and a 1-liner about how you have a PhD in Marketing from some school in the Philippines (even though you're Lebanese and from the looks of it, you've never lived in Asia).  My bullshit detectors go into overdrive.

No Marketing Documentation
Okay, so I can kindof-almost-even understand how you might not have a company profile or brochure to hand me (but not really), but if you can't even take the time to create a Powerpoint presentation to either hand me or show me.... LOOOOSERS. And seriously - you can't find a stapler?  You have to hold it together with a binder clip and hand it to me that way?  Fer real?

Proper Proposals
When I ask you for a proposal, I want a real proposal:  TOC maybe, About us, Methodology, Technical Capability, Past Performance,  References (you should already have a list to provide - your customer shouldn't even have to ask), and Price.  It should come as an attachment on your letterhead, signed, and not as part of an e-mail.  Which leads me to another point - oh yeah....

No domain name
What the Hell are you thinking giving me a yahoo or hotmail or gmail e-mail address?  At this point, just to F with them, I ask for a copy of the "marketing company's" business license (giggles).  Depending on my attitude that day, I might even ask for company financials just to be bitchy.  Tee hee.

(Don't bullshit a bullshitter.)

Body Language
Oh, this is a big pet peeve with me. 
Do's:  Firm handshake.  Direct eye contact.  Smiles.   Keep it all light and friendly and professional.  And puhleeze... don't tell me that a limp-wristed handshake is "cultural" when you're wearing spandex and denim (that is "cultural"?)

Don't's:  So, Marketing Company sends Cute Girlie with Tight Pants and Too-Tight Shirt.  She's all cutesy and sparkly and  gives her business card - with NO e-mail address - to every man in the room and neglects giving me one.  I assume she assumes I'm the secretary, come in to take notes. She doesn't realize I'm the one she has to get by before the men in the room will even take notice. Ok, so Miss Sexypants sits down and as soon as the technical questions get too difficult or she doesn't agree, she crosses her arms tightly in front of her.  Tighten, release; tighten, release.  What signal does this give off?   She's defensive. She doesn't like what she hears.  We can all read her and she has no clue.  Bitch please!  Read up on body language on the internet.  Learn how to effectively and professionally conduct yourself in a business meeting. Nobody is going to care about your taa taas if you don't know your stuff.

Gender Gap
Women are often women's worst enemies (on both the customer and provider side).  Don't make false assumptions about the other women in the room.  That woman over there wearing a T-shirt and a pair of jeans might just be the owner of the company.  She got her undergrad at Yale and has a law degree from Harvard.  She looks like she's about 12 and totally uninterested.  She'll be the one driving out of the parking lot in that Bently that you wrongly assumed belongs to somehotguy.  BAM!  She just got you.  Don't ASSume.  Everyone is of equal importance.  Thank the frickin tea boy.  Make an impression.

And by the way, it is ok for your customer to wear jeans to a meeting because your customer is always right.  It is NOT ok for you (male or female) to go to a meeting/presentation wearing jeans.  It is disrespectful and rude.  (I also find bimbos in titty-shirts offensive, but that's just me.)

And (male or female), make the secretary or receptionist your best friend (because he or she will help you later when you need to get a phone call through or a payment made).  (This goes for you job applicants too.  I always go out after a candidate has left and ask the secretary or the receptionist their impression of the candidate.  Were they rude?  Were they kind?)

Recently, I had a male marketeer call me right before his big presentation to tell me that he was religious and wouldn't shake my hand in the meeting.  He was well-intentioned, but it backfired because of his demeanor during the call. I'm the customer.   Personally, I don't think that uber-religious people should be in marketing positions because they are there to sell and you may offend someone.  I've been working in the Middle East for 16 years and I understand the cultural aspect, but if he had walked into an American company and said that to a female manager he had a meeting with... well... not so cool.  You don't have to call ahead.  Just turn it into something funny by saying, "I'm kinda religious, so virtual handshake...." Something like that.  Reach a common ground with humor.  You  (as a marketeer) are there to win friends, not alienate people.

The Customer is Always Right
We're going to give you revisions. Count on it.  Put it into  your proposal.  Price it.  We don't care.  But, don't shut us down and say that we CAN'T do something.  If we want to make 11 million small changes and we ask for 8 different options:  give it to us. This is your opportunity to (get this concept...) make money.  Price it. The customer is always right.  You can give your recommendations, but ultimately, the person with the cash is the one who is calling the shots.

Your Blah Blah Blah Degree and X number of Years of Marketing Experience doesn't mean squat to me
Pretentious and insecure people have to start talking about degrees and years of experience (that's right, whip it out...)  Why don't you just laminate that degree and wear it on a big gold chain?  If you don't make a good impression, I'm not going to be impressed by your education or experience.  You haven't shown me that you are knowledgeable if you are guilty of any of the offenses above.  And - in many cases - many of the people you are presenting to in the room (not me, I'm frickin illiterate) probably have a higher education or IQ than you do.  How do you know they don't?   Never ASSume anything.  Talk is just talk.  I don't have a marketing degree and I am not impressed by people who whip theirs out doring a meeting.  (Snore.)

In Conclusion
Do you know what I do if I really really really want a job I've just interviewed for?  I suck up:  I send the people I have interviewed with flowers, thanking them for the opportunity to present myself.  9 times out of 10, it works.  Why can't people show gratitude?  Gratitude is a HellofaThang.  People remember you.  Send a thank you card (not an e-mail, that's just low-class).  Send an executive gift or some chocolates.  See a picture of their kids on the desk?  Send toys for the kiddies.  Do SOMETHING that will set you apart from the competion.  So what if they decide not to do business with you right NOW.  Maybe the timing isn't right.  But you've made an impression and they will remember you and call you later when the time IS right.

If the customer has to call you to ask you for your proposal or the next step, that's just bad business.  They = customer.  You = provider.  Put your big girl panties on and deal with it.

So, that thar is Desert Girl's Marketing Advice and Pet Peeves 101, children.  I thought I would write about it while I had had several caffiene pills and Turkish coffees.

Doggie Daycare Kuwait

I have been looking for a service like this because recently, I have been having some work done in my house and I have been looking for someone who could take care of Desert Dawg during the day ( now that I no longer have the same reliable friend who had been watching her for years).

I haven't used there services yet, but I like the way they responded to my inquiry and I like what they have to say on their website:  www.doggiedaycarekuwait.com

I have to have Desert Dawg's booster shots updated.  It is required by ddc (they keep it lower case and out of respect - props! - I will too).   I'm reluctant to get boosters because she's never in the company of other dogs and has an allergic reaction every time I have her shots done.  At her tender, bitchy,  elderly age (112 in human years or 16 in actual years), I try to limit trauma every way I can.

They do grooming and the pet-sitting services sound wonderful.  They also pick up and deliver.  Woo hooo.

So anyhooser, check them out.  I've posted their link to the right of my screen.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Update on: Western Employees on Arifjan Sue for Labor Benefits and Win

Original post HERE.  See AmericanGirlsWorld Blog post on this subject HERE

The below is outstanding information from American Girl's World blog.  I hope some of my readers will find it useful as well, as I am often asked these types of questions.

Keven L. Barnes says:
April 29, 2013 at 12:49 pm

I work closely with Dr. Al Enezi’s law firm and he is working a number of these cases against Primes who, with the blessing of Camp Arifjan Contracting Officers and Lawyers have allowed the False Claims Act violations to go unaddressed in the form of debarments and suspension of companies who are violating the United States Government Prime contract DFAR regulation 252.7002 LOCAL LABOR LAWS apply.

What applies to Rock Island and Camp Arifjan are RICCO Racketeering laws against conspiracies, fraud, and theft of workers on such a scale as been happening to Americans, British, Australian, and other Western Expats, let alone the Third-Country nationals.

When you have the Department of Justice not investigating racketeering, fraud, the violation of the Competition in Contracting Act, and now Labor violations that date back 8 years – we have ourselves a racketeering that involves the DoD IG and FBI. Who is going to investigate and report to our Congress members the ongoing violations of the Terms and Conditions of the Prime contracts not enforced by Contracting Officers who were given an SF1402 and only have an 8th grade education. I would fully expect that the Lawyers who I believe have a much higher education degree than any Army Contracting officer would realize the difference between defending criminals and upholding the Federal Acquisition Regulations and Kuwait Labor Laws. They apparently have blurred the lines between defense and law. The Kuwait Labor Law applies to all VISA 18 in the passport holders. Visa 14 cannot work – PERIOD and Camp Arifjan has 100 plus violations of that statute alone at any one time.

Call Dr. Al Enezi or write me and I we will discuss your prime contract and its terms about Local Labor Law. All those who had their local labor rights in Kuwait violated should see a Qui Tam lawyer and bring the appropriate lawsuits against these Prime Contractors and file a claim against the Army and the individual contracting officer until finally – there just are no Contracting Officers who violate the Kuwait Labor Laws. Haul them into Kuwait courts. They leave the base, so they can be served papers to appear. ONLY then and investigation into the racketeering of Camp Arifjan and why it appears year after year in the Department of Justice’s report to Congress dating back to 2005 and MAJ JOHN COCKERHAM, MAJ PRESSLEY, and the other Camp Arifjan criminal elements who have joined the long list of 28 kickback artists. http://www.usmilitarycontracting.org will be a portal to capture this other criminal activity of Camp Arifjan.

Good Luck with your cases and don’t forget to take the win to an American attorney to recover damages in the United States system.

Bad day for Dubai bus driver attempting to rape female USN sailor

A Dubai bus driver who attempted to rape an off-duty US Navy sailor was wrestled to the ground and beaten into submission, a courtroom heard.

The 28-year old was on 24-hour shore leave when she was attacked by the driver shortly after boarding at the Mall of the Emirates on January 19.
“I noticed he did not take the main road and when I asked him he told me not to worry,” the unnamed sailor reportedly told Dubai Court.
She said that the driver then pulled over where a number of other buses were park and attempted to kiss the sailor. After refusing, he then tried to rape her at knife point.
The sailor responded by disarming the bus driver, before biting his hand and pinning him to the floor between her thighs.
The alleged attacker, referred to in court as KS, is charged with attempted rape, threatening to kill, assault and the illegal consumption of alcohol.
Reposted from Expat and the City
Reposted from Arabian Business
Also see this from AmericaBlog
And this one right har has git to be my favorite Wonkette because of her callous use of vulgarity (LOVE IT) and offensive language (LOVE IT) and the fact that she uses a photo of Suzanne Summers using a thigh master (LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT!!!)
This kind of thing just makes me giddy.
... and the sailor was kung fu fighting, na na na na na na na... that cat was fast as lightening... and she was a little bit frightening, na na na na....

Another blessed day

It's a beautiful day in Kuwait.  It isn't often that you get to experience these kinds of clouds here. I love it when I see them.

On my way to work this morning

Another blessed day.  Yup.  There used to be a security guy at Arifjan (don't know if he's still there - haven't seen him recently).  He worked the front check point.  Whenever anyone asked how he was, he would answer with a smile, "I'm blessed.  How are you?"  What a great attitude.  That's the kind of positivity I'm trying to adopt.  I mean - wouldya just look at that sky?  What a pretty sight.

A came over last night and I cooked him steaks.

Sidebar:  I still haven't figured out a proper nickname for "A" yet - it hasn't come to me.  I don't mean this disrespectfully to A or anyone else, but blog nicknames have to come to me the same way they would when I would name a pet.  If it doesn't stick, it doesn't work.  It took me about a month to come up with Desert Dawg's name, Lilli Putian.  She's white like a lily and small and human-like like someone from Lilliput.  I call her "Lilli" for short.  Pithy, n'est pas?

Anyhooser, the steaks weren't as good as I thought they were going to be.  Not my fault.  I think sometimes it is the luck of the draw at the butcher.  I go to a guy behind the City Center in Salmiya who is usually very good. Not this time.  Too tough.  That's ok.  I have enough veggies for an endless parade of salad.  I'm also juicing so much fruit that it is coming out of my ears.  It's all good.  It's all healthy.

Next week, it is Dubai and hotel and restaurant food for 10 days (the "tox" diet rather than the "detox").  I'm going for work, but Stella will be there so it's like a party. Woo hoo.  I went a little crazy in the States with the sales.  Not my fault:  They were there, so was I.  It was kismit. I came back with about 7 dresses that I'm saving to wear on the trip. 

The only problem is that my legs are torn up by mosquitos.  It looks like I was in a car accident.  (Maybe I can use that as an excuse - little chards of glass everywhere.  People will pity me.)   Hey - is anybody out there reading this a salon person with make-up stuff that covers scars/injuries?  Serious - I need some recommendations.   I'm allergic to mosquito bites.  It aint pretty.  You wouldn't think there would be mosquitos in Kuwait, but if you live in an area where there is a lot of foliage (or have a terrace with potted plants like I do), you are in for it.  They're like little Apache helicopters coming in for the attack.

I also found a tick on Desert Dawg for the first time in her little doggy life of 16 years.  A tick.  I didn't even think there were ticks in Kuwait.  Ew.  Ticks and spiders:  NOT my thing.  I can't even talk about cockroaches.  Look - I'm breaking out in a sweat right now...  ok, enough of that.  Just shoot me, it's better and less disturbing to me. 

Something completely different....
So I was sitting in Strands (shout out to ma girlzzzz!  No, they are not paying me.  I just like them a lot and highly recommend them.  Awesome logo, BTW) getting the Shellac manicure taken off that I got in the States.  Holy crap - that stuff lasts forever and you can't burn it off; it must be removed by trained professionals with pressure guns (ok, acetone, cotton balls and tin foil).  Anyhow... so there I was getting my nails undone and I'm listening to a conversation of two very nice British (I think, maybe Irish, but not too much of Irish accent.  Could they be Welch?  Dunno.)  ladies.  I chimed in, in my usual nosy/intrusive way.  We were talking about driving in Kuwait and other funny topics.  I don't think they have been in Kuwait very long. 

Sometimes I wonder who reads the blog.  I don't want to sound conceited by blurting out, "Hey, do you read my blog?  Did anything on there help you or did you find it useful?"  Sometimes thats what I want to interject.  Because sometimes I wonder.  I hope I help the newbies.  I wonder because I know I have one follower (stalker) but beyond that - does anybody read this crap?  Really - what I had for dinner last night?  You want to read about that?  I thought I was pathetic for writing this stuff, but do people read it?  Hmmmmmm....

While I'm randomly promoting stuff, let me send a shout out to Soor Center, where you pathetic stalkers can get help.  You don't need me.  I'm not a therapist.  They are.  [They did not pay me to promote them, although if you are reading this, Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa (who I admire very much.  Have you been working out?), I could use therapy coupons.  Thanks.]

Quite obviously, too much Turkish coffee this morning...

Y'alls have a blessed day, ya hear?

Sunday, April 28, 2013


Thursday, A brought me fruits and veggies; more than I'll ever be able to eat.  Good excuse to go buy a juicer, so I did.

I retaliated the next day by taking him to Housny (which, by the way, has the best seafood in Kuwait).

So that is pretty much how my weekend went.  Food and sofa... except for going to the chalet.  Good times.

Doha Chalets, Jahra

This weekend, I was invited to visit my regular Thursday Night Buddies at a chalet in Doha.  I hadn't been up to that area since (OMG) 1998.  I can't remember who I was visiting at that time, but I recall he was very very nice and welcoming and now I wish I had kept in touch.

Anyways, a LOT has changed in that area since 1998.  You used to be able to get up there by cutting by the Doha Power Plant and over.  I made the mistake of trying to go that way now, but you can't get there that way.  (It looked like you could on the Locator.)  You have to take 605 from 80 (it is the Amghara scrap yard exit.  Amghara is on the left, Doha chalets are to the right).

Yes, Doha is the area at the end of 7th Ring Road where Camp Doha used to be.  Well, it is actually still there, but the Kuwaiti military uses it now and not the US military.

 Camp Doha in the background.  
Some chalets in the foreground.

It looks like this now, but with quite a 
few houses already constructed.

Like a lot of areas in Kuwait (especially around the sea), Doha is being developed.  Where it used to be an easy little drive to get there, it is now a pain in the butt. They're building a new city, Jaber Al-Ahmad City, and I swear I went through 20 traffic circles.  There are no street lights up yet, so it was a crap shoot to see if I was going to run right  over one of those circles.  I had to keep it slow.  This is the plan for development (on Pan Arab Consulting Engineers' website).

This is the plan for development

When I finally got to the chalet, it looked as if the area hadn't changed much at all.  The chalets are still pretty low-level compared to their Southern cousins.  (Guess that is about to change.)  The one I visited was nice enough, but not a whole lot of beach frontage/sand.  The water is also very shallow (good for shrimp but not so great for swimming).  It is a very quiet area (unlike the Southern chalets). I think the owners choose to keep it like that.  Parties are seriously discouraged (the police show up immediately and it is serious).  It is a quiet family environment.

Doha is at the tip of the bay and where there are mud flats.  The area is actually a nature (wetland) preserve, Al Doha Reserve,  in the area which was established in 1988. I don't know how that will fare with the development.

I'm glad I'm seeing it before-and after.  I couldn't get over how the Khuwaisat area changed - and now this.  I should go take photos before everything becomes completely different.  It is happening. If you are into exploring like I am, you should drive out there and check it.  Kuwait fascinates me.  It changes every day.

Thanks John! You tha man!!! :)

Link to John Hayes' article  in Kuwait Times on Kuwait Bloggers (including lil ole me).

Credibility. Blogger. Combining the two words produces a person who has the power to influence beliefs and actions. For example, commercial bloggers (as opposed to hobbyists) write, “Gadget A is better than Gadget B” and “Buy these brownies – they’re yummy!” Consumers believe the bloggers, until they lose credibility. Loss of credibility doesn’t mean the bloggers lose their audience, but they do lose the power to influence, and some lose respect. Every year my students study the Kuwait blogosphere, and every year they bemoan blogger credibility. “Bloggers just want money,” a group of students reported. “They’re not interested in serving the readers.”

KD 400 to post!
Once the readers turn on a blogger, advertisers are not far behind. In response to my previous columns about Kuwait blogging, a Kuwaiti businessman told me about his distasteful experience with a blogger. “We invited him to our business and afterwards he told us he would post an article for KD 400. That didn’t feel honest to us.

If we wanted to buy an advertisement we would have done so. We didn’t want to pay him just to say good things about our business.” Some savvy bloggers have figured out how to get the best of all worlds: serve the readers, earn money, and keep credibility and respect. To wit, Heather Armstrong was a young and financially struggling Salt Lake City mom when she started writing about her kids, her husband, her pets, her depression, her liberal views, etc., in a blog called Dooce.com (for which she was eventually fired from her full-time job).
Today her site nets nearly 1-million monthly visitors, and she earns more than $50,000 a month. At one point she was the only female blogger on Forbes’ list of the Most Influential Women in Media. Does she write about gadgets and brownies? Sometimes. And when she’s paid to do so, she says so. “Kuwait bloggers don’t have to tell us they get paid to write their ‘awesome’ reviews,” a student told my class. “We already know that.” Even so, credible bloggers divulge that information, including how much money they received for a review. I’m in favor of paid reviews, or what’s called an “advertorial,” meaning a combination of advertising and editorial. But why not call it what it is?

Who are the bloggers?
Curiously, many Kuwait bloggers not only hide their review policies, but their identity, too, and yet their identities are widely known. Otherwise, how would all those invitations, not to mention the yummy brownies and cash payments, mysteriously appear at their doors? Most bloggers have full-time jobs, most blog for the fun of it, and many have explained to me that they don’t want their coworkers to know who they are (understandable) and they don’t want the government to know, either (and yet, if my students know who they are, how difficult would it be for the government to know, too?). Of course, the bloggers know the bloggers because they show up together for events closed to the public. I’m in favor of that, too. It helps cultivate a blogger’s community, which in turn could help improve the credibility of blogs in Kuwait.
By the way, if credibility continues to decline, the day will come when the blogs are as popular as textbooks. In spite of my critical eye (or perhaps because of it), I admire the Kuwait blogosphere, and my daily routine, in and out of the country, includes reading newspapers and selective blogs. I rely on both media for information and entertainment, and often as a source for lectures. The late American speaker Charlie “Tremendous” Jones used to say, “Five years from now you will be the same person you are today except for the books your read and the people you meet.” I agree, but nowadays I’d throw bloggers into that mix.

Bloggers enrich our lives
My life in Kuwait is more satisfying because of bloggers. For example, Mark at 248am taught me about the virtual private network (I hope the government doesn’t mind that I use VPN). I laugh every time I read a Desert Girl experience – she’s hilarious and could be a novelist. Melwyn at Expat Voices writes well and for all I know may be a journalist. His & Hers – “the bird who fell in love with a fish” – posts thoughtful observations. The Grapevine tells me what’s happening in Kuwait. 7aji Dude brings three different perspectives to the local blogosphere, sometimes with too many photos, but they often write objectively.
Kuwait Music is serious, quality reporting. Kuwaitiful keeps posts short, to the point and easy to read. Expat and the City posts offbeat international updates and includes a Reviews link where she explains her policies (good for her!). I could go on, but you get the idea. It’s worth reading Kuwait blogs, although you have to be selective, and you must read between the lines when you read the reviews. “People have this impression that blogs are all about making money. It doesn’t have to be that way,” said Blogger Mathai. Well, truly, it isn’t that way.

Most bloggers in Kuwait do not make money (more could if they understood how). “Blogging is satisfaction,” claimed the blogger at Magic Hands. Bingo! It is satisfaction for bloggers, a large number of readers, and some advertisers. I can only hope that bloggers will protect their credibility, and that one day I can join the Kuwait blogosphere. When I do, I won’t mind receiving those “yummy” brownies, and you can be sure I’ll tell you exactly what I think, good or bad. By the way, my wife makes the world’s best brownies, and she doesn’t pay me to say so.

Dr. John P. Hayes teaches online marketing at GUST. Contact Dr. Hayes at questions@hayesworldwide. com, or via Twitter @drjohnhayes. Note: No blogger paid for this column!
By John P Hayes


I met John and his very lovely wife when they first arrived to Kuwait several years ago (gosh - how many has it been??).  I've enjoyed his articles ever since.  I regularly receive random questions and it becomes a challenge for me to find answers.  John posed one of the most interesting questions:  Where can I find a piano in Kuwait?  I had some ideas, but ultimately, John found his own piano.  I later went to hear his wife play at a local hotel; she played out of joy, not for the return of a big paycheck.  It was lovely.  They are lovely.  I feel blessed to know them both and for being allowed to read John's unique perspective of Kuwait - and his perspective of us as a group of bloggers.  Thank you, John, for your continued friendship and for your wonderful positive energy.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Goat Cheese: How much it meant to me

So, since the Very Scary Night earlier this month, I have been too embarassed to go to visit Bu Khalaf and our friends.  I felt awful having to call him that night and so I thought I would wait.  I guess I waited too long. 

I think Bu Khalaf knew how I felt.  He is a gentle giant, who much prefers the company of nature, his sheep and his goats, to humans.  He takes a very quiet approach to handling problems - which is probaby why he has so many friends who would do just about anything for him.  He's a no-nonsense, no-drama guy; very practical and analytical.  Salt-of-the-Earth kind of guy. 

Last night, he called me.  In the almost-17 years since I've been here, Bu Khalaf has never come to see me at my house.  He's always very inviting, but never once invited himself to my house.  He's a little religious and extremely respectful.  When he called, he said he wanted to come over because he wanted to give me cheese he just made that morning.  He makes cheese and buttermilk and other things from his goats and sheep.  The cheese tastes wonderful with the fresh tomatoes he grows. 

I knew it wasn't about the cheese.  He sat down and asked me what had happened.  I told him. He asked me one question that seemed to really bother him, "Were you afraid?"  I told him I was.  He got very quiet.  Looked at the floor.  That was it.   He told me to come to his farm because they miss me.

Then we walked outside onto my terrace before he left and he explained how I should care for all the plants that I have. 

Some people just have a calming demeanor; an energy that makes things simply fall into place. He came and got me to pull me back into the herd.  He didn't even have to say very much; just a few questions.  And handed me goat cheese.  And I felt so much better.

I guess I didn't realize how strongly The Big Scary Night affected me.  I was harboring a little depression (but it was a combination of events that just vaporized when I got back).  Extremely bad acquaintances have gone away and have been replaced by extremely kind people (and kind gestures from a few random strangers).

Monday, April 22, 2013

Gas Pumps

These are real gas pumps.  Why can't we have them in Kuwait?

Nice gas prices, eh?  Guess they're paying for the pumps...

Pillow Dive: The Shroud of Rumaithiya

As anticipated, I crashed in the late afternoon yesterday.  (Stella, stop reading this NOW.)  I was at my desk, put my head on my hand and fell asleep.  I have never ever ever in my entire career - anywhere - done that.  (Although the 'betes meds do make me very sleepy right around 3 pm - that is a recent development.)  To make matters worse, our marketing manager came in to talk to me, called my name 3 times, and decided to let me sleep. Oh.My.Gawd!  I apologized and left early.  At least I wasn't "singing opera" (aka "snoring").   I was really wiped out.  Went home and did a pillow dive, fully clothed. Huge lipstick smear all over my pillow case.  Whatever.  (Incase you were wondering - no, that's not a first.  Sometimes it gets a full facial impression.  You get eyebrow make-up, mascara, eyeliner, foundation, and lipstick.  It's like the Shroud of Turin only not as holy and a whole lot more... well, colorful, I suppose, without being trampy, of course.)

Later, A came over and cooked me kabsa.  It took him 3 hours (my stove is electric and it sucks), but it was really good.  At Hour 2, I asked him if he just wanted to finish it on the barbecue grill outside.  I've got to stop eating rice.  These rice guys are killing me.   I love it how rice-packer dudes insist that YOU need to get more fit; while hand-feeding you mountains of steaming spiced rice and meat.  It just isn't FAIR.  Stop, stop.... no, don't stop, don't stop....

By the by:  Why don't they have a WholeFoods in Kuwait?  WTF.    I love that place.  My sister calls it, "the hairy-legged woman place."  Says that all the shoppers there don't shave their legs and their all so self-important that they ram their carts right into ya.  Whatevah.  I ram back. (And no, I do not have hairy legs. Ew.)  Why is it that I have to pay like 30KD for 3 apples and an onion at (that usual Westerner place I go to in Kuwait) and most of the produce is usually bad?  Why can't I have a WholeFoods?  Why? Why?

Back to our story...

I'm going to have to think of a nickname for A.  I don't know what yet.  It hasn't hit me. Anyhoo, he's been really sweet and helpful and totally got me out of my bad funk/element.   He's my Calgon.  Maybe I should call him that (not sure yet).  I'm grateful.

So I asked A's dad what he would like me to bring him from the States. He said, "A beautiful American lady..."  So here's what I brought him:

Ask and ye shall receive.  Bada BING.
(There's a hole in her plastic container.  Do you think it is so she can breathe?  I was always under the assumption that Barbi could breathe through her ears...   I also can't tell if it is Birthday Barbi or Bride Barbi.  Could be either.)

{23 April Update:  "A" told me that  his dad loved the Barbi and immediately set about taking her clothes off.  [Me:  look of shock.  Him:  "He's Bedouin!  What did you think he would do?" (He said it - not me.)]  A added, "Did you know that she had underwear?"}

His mom wanted shoes (you can't find good leather shoes here that don't cost 50KD - add that to the 3 apples and an onion for 30KD and you are looking at a car payment.)  A and his mom haven't been speaking much; she's mad at him because of something stupid.  I thinked receiving the shoes helped smooth things over.  (I got yo' back, buddy.  Nothing like a new pair of shoes to make mommy smile.)

A got me a license plate holder for my Camaro while I was in the States.  I'd been searching for one of those damn things.  Dealer dudes got me one o'dem long, European-style license plates and I didn't want to just randomly drill holes in the front bumper, so I've been driving around with the tag in my front window.  Not having a front license plate was an excuse for every police officer Tom, Dick, and Harry to pull me over.  "Hey, there's a blonde in a sports car at night.  Let's go get her..."  So I am very relieved that the 5-O has no reason to stop me now (other than being blonde, but as far as I know, that is not a crime..... yet.)  A also had some maintenance things taken care of for me.  I love having a man who can cook AND maintain. ... RrrrepreSENT.

Something completely different...

So, with all these earthquakes going on in Kuwait, our office is moving to the 30th floor of a building downtown with floor-to-ceiling glass panels.  That should be fun.  I'm afraid of heights.  My palms are sweating right now, just thinkin about it. Am I even capable of running down 30 flights of stairs in the event of an emergency?  Must I start training now?  What happens if the elevator goes out?  What happens if I'm wearing heels? Should I buy a parachute? There are so many what-if's.  30th floor?  Eeeek.  I worked for a construction company here before.  I know what goes on.  I'm not at all comfortable with this.  Nobody asked me.

I miss my family.  That sucks.  I had such a nice trip.  So relaxing and fun.  My sister really went above-and-beyond to make me happy.  She felt that I had the need.  I so did.  Wish I had more time to spend there.  ... summer plans.

I have nothing to report from Kuwait.  Nothing has really happened yet (other than falling asleep at work even though I had an __itload of work to do.  Shameful, really. Quite appalling.) 

Oh, I ran into my friend in Kuwait customs coming through the airport. There were like 6 guys standing with him.  I turn the corner around that gynormous x-ray machine and thar he was.  I shouted out his name (forgetting where I was).  "(Dude!) you lost weight!  How is your sister?  Where is the logaymat?"  Then, it occurred to me that his friends were all staring at me (not the "I'm hoping to get in your pants" stare either.  More like, "You are odd and I don't know what to make of you" stare).  No, I wasn't drunk (although the 2 Percocets I had on the plane may have had some residual affect).  Anyhoo, gave me a chuckle.  I used to have a lot of friends in Kuwait customs.  Seems like every time I went through the airport, I was taking some guy's number in the hopes of bringing in contraband refreshments (yes, it actually did work and I maintain my friendships so now most of those guys are supervisors). Now that they got those G-damn x-ray machines and surveillance cameras (surveilling the surveillers), it has become a lot more difficult (and yet, strangely, do-able).  And then.... my leetle Mexican friend, Jose, and I walked out together, arm-in-arm into the sunset.

Along the lines of surveillance - a security guy on the plane told me that last year, 800 seasoned police officials were early-retired, leaving a tremendous void in the knowledge pool over here.  I hadn't heard about it, but I don't doubt it.  Did anyone else hear about that?  That may be a factor in why there are so many incidents of violent crime lately. Wow. 

GTG now.  Catch y'alls later.

Bless your heart.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Help the Kuwait Zoo

Mark posted this a while back and maybe I can help bring attention to this problem (and ask people for their help).  I haven't been to the Kuwait Zoo since I first went there in 1993.  At that time, seeing the wolves and the way people treated them literally broke my heart and I vowed never to return again - just can't do it.

I hope they will find help for the poor animals.

Mark's full post is below (from 248am.com)

Why the Kuwait Zoo is a disaster

Everyone who’s been to the Kuwait Zoo knows how sad and depressing the place is. I’ve written about it a number of times and it’s just something that has bewildered me for a very long time. Why is the zoo the way it is? I always figured the people who worked at the zoo didn’t care about the animals but after meeting a few of the staff members recently I now know that’s not true. Turns out there are two main reasons why the zoo is a disaster, the first is the zoo visitors and the second is they just don’t have enough money to make it better.

The Visitors
Majority of the people who visit the zoo do not respect the animals nor do they respect any of the rules. On one trip to the zoo during the daytime when it was fairly empty I witnessed three different incidents in a space of 15 minutes that summarizes the problem with the people at the zoo. The first incident took place at the elephant enclosure. We noticed a woman with her young kid had climbed over the fence, through the cactuses all the way to the wall of the elephant enclosure and were taking pictures next to the trunk of the elephant that was sticking out. One of the zoo employees who was with me yelled at the women to get away from the elephant because it was dangerous and the woman just coldly took her time making her way back out over the fence as if she had done nothing wrong. A few meters away on the other corner of the enclosure there was a kid next to his mother with a bag of oranges throwing them at the second elephant. Again the zoo employee had to stop the kid from throwing oranges at the elephant while the mother was pretending she wasn’t noticing any of this.

The third incident occurred just a short distance away at the baboon enclosure. As we arrived we noticed a kid was on top of the fence sticking french fries into the baboon cage trying to feed them. His mother and his sister were standing next to him watching and then the baboon stuck his hand out of the cage and the little boy tried to kick it hard but ended up missing and hitting the cage. The zoo employee I was with yelled at the boy to get down and then pulled the kid down but the kid kept climbing back up wanting to feed the baboons. The employee was telling the kid how dangerous it was since the baboons can bite and scratch people when his mother started shouting at her. She told the employee that no one cares about her kids more than her and if this was dangerous she wouldn’t be letting her kids feed the baboons. I was just standing there going WTF?

Visitors are one of the biggest issues of the zoo. I’ve already posted about how some kids try to kill the animals with slingshots and how the trash people throw into the cages end up killing the animals as well. A lot of kids are uneducated and abusive throwing whatever they can at the animals or in the case above trying to kick them. This is why the zoo tries to protect the animals using chicken wire (a fence with very small openings) around the cages, cactus plants, higher fences and security guards. But even those defenses fail all the time, people still manage to shove food into the cages, they pull down the chicken wire fence and put it on top of the cactuses so they can walk on them towards the cages. Even security guards get ignored and the guards are too afraid to confront the visitors anyway.

No Budget
Now this second issue is the bigger of the two. The zoo has limited financial resources. Although Kuwait is a rich country, the zoo and animals aren’t really a priority. Right now there are two major enclosures for example that need to be changed or fixed but the zoo staff haven’t been able to secure the budget for them.

The first problem is the elephant enclosure. Right now there are two elephants and the enclosure is pretty tiny. The larger of the two elephants has started destroying the walls of the enclosure because of frustration. The zoo submitted a proposal to double the size of the enclosure since there is an empty plot right next to the elephant enclosure but the proposal was rejected. Instead a construction company was brought in to install large metal beams around the elephant enclosure as a solution (pictured above).

The second problem that is in dire need of attention is the chimpanzee cage (pictured above). There are four chimps in one of the most depressing cages I’ve ever seen. They have no entertainment whatsoever inside, it’s just a rectangular dark cage with concrete floors and thats it. But, there’s a great spot in the zoo which the staff want to convert to a chimp enclosure. It’s a large space (see below) that can be planted with trees and greenery and chimps can roam free in it. The plan was proposed but rejected due to budgetary reasons. So now the space is gonna be turned into a reptile enclosure filled with a few crocs and turtles which is going to be a complete waste of space.

So although the staff do want to improve the zoo they just don’t have any money do so. It’s very depressing. Even when it comes to fixing enclosures or purchasing new medical equipment it’s all handled in the same low priority “put a bandaid on it” way.

The Solution
The visitors problem is very difficult to fix. One way would be to increase the prices of the tickets (currently it’s 500fils) in hopes that would stop or lessen the amount of visitors that come to the zoo. Educating the parents and the children is too large a task for the zoo to handle and signs and leaflets really have no effect. The most realistic solution to the people problem is to continue and try to protect the animals (I suggested replacing cactus plants with barbed wire) and hiring Kuwaiti security to replace the current expats.
The solution with the budget should be simpler… just increase the budget, but that’s not happening. A more realistic option we discussed is sponsorship by private companies. Companies could sponsor an animal enclosure and the money would be used to build it or improve it. It’s something that’s done in other zoos around the world and in this situation it would be a great way to solve a lot of the problems.

By the way you’re a company and are interested in doing this, email me for more details [Here]
It’s really sad that the zoo doesn’t have any money to improve the situation for the animals. It’s not only the elephants and the chimps that are in trouble but those two are the priorities right now. The baboon cage for example has around 70 baboons inside and is over crowded. The tiger needs more space, the hippos need a new water filter for their pool and one of the giraffes is limping but they don’t have a portable xray machine to check and see why. They even have one animal enclosure nicknamed Guantanamo because it’s that bad.
The problems with the zoo are major and hopefully I was able to bring it some exposure.

Birthday Week

I just got back from Virginia last night.  I had a fantabulous time with the family and friends - as anticipated.  I had to get out of Kuwait for this special occasion because I was determined to make it better than other sucky occasions earlier this year - and it worked.

[I'm not writing anything more about Desert Guy, Teddy, or even The Romanian.  All that is off the radar.   New life has begun and I'm happy (Mashallah); despite some misguided attempts by the aforementioned players to the contrary.  You can't start a new chapter if you keep re-reading the book....  bygones.  Adios.  Vija con Dios.]

I had several very good/very deep conversations with my sister.  She has helped me put things into perspective and has let me see a righteous path towards solving my recent difficulties.  I feel so much more centered and grounded and I feel good about myself.   My mom always does that for me too.  This time around, I had the added bonus of being in the company of two of my long-time friends in DC for a birthday dinner.  Everything was just content. 

It was Spring in Washington - which is probably my favorite place to celebrate the season.  Everything was green and the flowers were out this week in particular.

I had a lovely flight back - slept most of the way - and woke up this morning at 3am (which means I'm going to crash sometime this afternoon).   

I can't wait to go visit my buddies; South on Thursday night and North sometime in-between now and then.  I miss them.

Thanks to all of you who sent me birthday wishes. :)

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Monday, April 08, 2013

Not Without my Camaro

(Mom, don't read this.  Nothing to worry about now.)

My psychic friend has been reading my coffee cups for the past few years.  She's usually reeeeeeaally accurate and being the "tell it like it is" girl that she is, usually gets all up in my face if she feels that I'm doing something that isn't healthy in my life.  During the past few months (the saga of Desert Guy et al) has been knockin me upside my head saying, "What are you DOING?"  She was not shy in telling me what she thought about him and his friends.  Foresight.

And with good reason.

They are bad bad bad.  Teddy, who I thought was a dear friend, was no exception.  In fact, he was the worst of the wolf pack (no disrepect to wolves because there is honor and dignity among wolves).  Desert Guy was a walk in the park compared to this creature from the wacked lagoon.

I was already having a hard time with Teddy because I just told him over and over that he was being disrespectful to me.  You don't just show up at my house to talk at me and drink. Have respect. He invites all his 4.5M female "friends" to coffee and dinner. Why am I the only one he is "comfortable" with?   As he said, he comes to my place because it is "home sweet home." Uh no, it isn't your home. When asked why we couldn't just meet over coffee or dinner, the response was, "I'm not trying to sleep with you." So, I refused to talk to him for a few weeks.  Respect.  I shoulda known, a dawg is a dawg (and I mean that as no insult to dogs.  The more I get to know my dog, the less I like people.)

This past weekend, I had the misfortune of having it driven into my thick skull that he's an evil lowlife piece of crap (tell us how you really feel, Desert Girl).  I  listened to his pathetic pleading, "I really really miss you.  I'm sorry....  You're my best friend...  Let's just go out and talk... I'm coming to get you...."

And then..... 

He left me in Kabd with people I didn't know (well, I had seen one of them maybe 3 times years before and I knew that he knew some of my other mutual friends).  Regardless, Teddy just left me there.  I turned around and he was gone.  No car.  No way home.  It was a situation that could have turned really bad, really fast.

I don't cry - as you may know from previous posts. I cry at stupid things like coffee commercials and shows on Lifetime.   I cried this night - big, uglycry, mascara-all-over-your-face, sobbing and shaking kind of cry.  Fear isn't something I'm accustomed to.  Neither is being a simpering girly girl.

SNAP out of IT!  I called Bu Khalaf; his farm is located not-too-far away..  Immediate protection from All Things Evil. 

The guy I had met before, that Teddy left me with (or "to" - I don't know what his intent was, but I have a distinct gut-level feeling "to" might be closer to the truth) is a ranking police officer.  He promised Bu Khalaf that he would get me home safely and he did.  But not before taking me to get something to eat and stopping to buy me a small gift because, "Not all Kuwaitis are bad."  He was a gentleman and told me outright what he thought of Teddy, "He's not a man." 

99.9% of the time, I never drive with anyone else.  I always always take my car.  This time was an exception because I TRUSTED Teddy.   I shouldn't have.   His character/ being a whore (and no disrespect to whores) aside, I considered him a friend and never would have imagined that he would be so low  (I guess when a dog runs after a cat, he loses his frick-in MIND.  DGy called him and he was off in chase of cats; leaving me to fend for myself.)

I can count on one hand how many people have been truly bad to me since I have been in Kuwait (almost 17 years now).  The number doesn't even reach the last digit.  Teddy is number 4.

Usually, I'm all preachy to people about having a back-up plan, but I let my guard down and I didn't have one this time (or my pepper spray or a weapon).  Stupid.  It was late and I had to scramble to think of someone to call.  Thank God, he answered the phone.  Thank God I was protected by good people. 

Just wish my back-up plan came with a Louisville slugger and an aptitude for revenge.

Let me reiterate that in almost-17 years, nothing like this has ever happened to me in Kuwait.  I am much more likely to have something violent or scary happen to me in the US (at home in DC) and an count several very uncomfortable if not downright dangerous situations there (like gunfights, being chased home when I was a teenager by someone who later turned out to be a serial rapist, etc.)

I've had an internal debate about posting this story. But then I thought it might maybe trigger something in someone else; maybe you should have a back-up plan too.  Don't leave home without your Camaro. ... The're a reason for everything...  That kind of philisophical crap.

This skumbag is the reason my best friend of 16 years dumped me (making her... well... just as bad I suppose.)   This whole situation has taught me so much.  I asked God to protect me from enemies, and I started losing friends. If anyone asked me six months ago if any of this could ever happen to me, I would have laughed at them. 

Just a few more days and I'll be on the plane.  It is always nice to return to Kuwait, refreshed and renewed; welcoming the big change that inevitably comes after every plane trip out and in.  Last time, the change that came was to teach me life lessons.  I really hope that the next change will come in the form of something superficial and happy (if it isn't too much to ask).


Sunday, April 07, 2013

Bill Proposed to Allow Foreigners to Own Property in Kuwait

 Can it be true?  Can there actually be forward-thinking individuals within the parliament?  Wow.  Do you mean to tell me that Kuwait is actually seeing the benefits of an economic boost - similar to Dubai's?  Shocking really. 

Arab Times
KUWAIT CITY, April 6: Secretary of the National Assembly MP Kamel Al-Awadhi proposed a bill on Saturday to allow foreigners to own property in Kuwait. He said the bill aims to provide foreigners with a stable means to carry on their business and will be beneficial to the real estate market.

In light of the high population of expatriates, Al-Awadhi added, his proposed bill will allow new investment opportunities as foreigners will be attracted to invest their savings in the local economy instead of outside Kuwait.

Al-Awadhi proposed the amendment of law number 8/2001 concerning the regulation of direct investment of foreign capital in the State of Kuwait to allow foreign residents and investors to acquire residential and business properties.